Rico’s Morning + Noon + Night Shines Blending Quality Dining, New Urbanism and Gorgeous Green Space
The origin story of Rico’s Morning + Noon + Night draws inspiration from that of Shake Shack, the wildly popular burger joint birthed in New York and currently expanding aggressively nationwide.
Shake Shack traces its roots to Madison Square Park, where patrons gleefully endured long lines to dine on exceptional hamburgers in idyllic environs, surrounded by a green space nestled in an urban landscape.
The concept behind Rico’s (401 Gray St.) is similar. Anchored in lovely Bagby Park, Rico’s provides quality casual dining in what could best be described as an urban oasis. Its blend of Midtown vibrancy with natural beauty is wholly unique, with its food and drink menu enhancing it all.
“The biggest thing that I noticed was the feel,” says Jason Gould, the corporate chef of sister restaurant Cyclone Anaya’s and managing partner at Rico’s. “Because even though you have Bagby (Street) and Gray Street right there and traffic moving by – there was this hustle and bustle around you but then there was this calmness at the same time. The green grass, the trees, the water features, there was this unique interaction between industrial urban living and tranquil park life. So it was very cool.
“The big thing in being an owner is not for me to have this view of it but what I much prefer is the customer and the guest view of it. Having them experience that and enjoying the food is what always gets me the most. People constantly come up and say, ‘We love this. This is fantastic. And the quality of food is great as well.'”
Gould, an Aussie by birth who spent years working as a chef in Europe, was in New York when tragedy befell the nation. He eventually carried the “enlightening experience” of helping feed those at Ground Zero following the terrorist attacks on 9/11 with him to Houston, where his aunt had lived for three decades. Gould found his footing at Aries and later partnered with one of its owners to open the beloved Gravitas before ultimately finding a home at Cyclone Anaya’s six-plus years ago.
With the inspiration behind Rico’s in place, all Gould needed was to execute the vision. He opted out of creating a taco truck given the affiliation with Cyclone Anaya’s and its Tex-Mex cuisine. An ice cream stand would have a limited audience based on the seasons. Serving drinks only didn’t present the possibility of a fully captivated audience.
“We really wanted to do something that would fit well in the limited space that we have,” Gould says. “That was part of the decision-making. When you only have a 400-square-foot building, what can you do and what can you offer that would be desired by the residents? We wanted to do something that would fit and work within the limited space we had and we knew that we could execute at a high quality.”
For Gould that meant burgers, hot dogs, and milkshakes. As evidenced by its name, Rico’s offers breakfast tacos for brunch on the weekends along with an array of smoothies plus coffee and tea. Salads are available and the drink menu is extensive from crafted beers, frozen sake and several wines.
Rico’s opened in September of 2015 and its concept continues to develop. Gould aims to bolster the entertainment aspect of the restaurant with future plans to incorporate popular bar games as well as movies in the park on a slide screen. Gould has used the past nine months to take inventory of the needs of his customers, both the regulars and those drawn to Bagby Park by creative and popular events.
As Rico’s continues to take shape and set roots in Midtown, what will remain is its adherence to satisfying food and its breathtaking scenery.
“What I see around Midtown is people want to be entertained,” Gould says. “They want to have activities and they want to be able to do things when they’re out. What we are as a restaurant will stabilize. We’ll continue to serve great quality burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes, but then incorporating more entertainment into the facility as well.”